States cut dental care for the poor

Medicaid recipients around the country are now unable to afford basic dental health

Published October 3, 2012 6:39PM (EDT)


Dental care has been stripped from Medicaid programs in cash-strapped states including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois, California and Washington, the Huffington Post reported Wednesday.

Daniel Lippman reports:

Under Medicaid -- which has about 60 million recipients -- states are not allowed to cut dental care for children. But for adults, dental care is an "optional service," according to federal reimbursement guidelines. But medical experts say proper dental care is a core part of overall good health and warn that it will cost more to treat these people in the long run.

... In 2007, Washington state was spending more than $30 million annually on its adult dental Medicaid program. In recent years, however, the state has cut those benefits, and in 2011 it axed non-emergency dental care for all Medicaid-eligible adults except those with developmental disabilities, long-term care patients, and pregnant women. Of the 488,000 Medicaid-eligible adults in the state, only 38,000 are still eligible for non-emergency care, according to data compiled by the Washington State Dental Association.

Obamacare will aim to ensure that all children and young adults under 21 have dental coverage, but the plan's requirement to obtain healthcare does not apply to dental and vision coverage for adults.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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